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I arrived at the classroom early and sat down close to the door. More students soon followed. As the other students entered, I studied their faces and tried to make sure that I remembered them in the future. No one paid much attention as they picked a seat and sat down. It seemed like some of them had already formed groups, judging from how noisy they were.

When the last student entered the classroom, a short girl with medium-length white-blond hair and a detached expression, the only seat that wasn’t occupied was next to me. She sat down without saying a word before nonchalantly laying her head on the desk. I considered greeting her for a second before deciding against it. If she wanted to talk, she wouldn’t have lied down like that. It looked more like she wanted to sleep than anything else.

“Tired?” A voice called out from behind.

I turned around and looked back. There sat a diminutive Chinese girl with a tomboyish air around her. She had dark brown hair in a bob cut and big brown eyes. She was currently sporting a broad smile as she looked at the girl next to me. Said girl leisurely raised her head and looked back at the girl behind her.

“No, not really.” She said blankly.

The Chinese girl smiled even wider.

“Oh, really? It looked like you fell asleep the moment you sat down, so I just assumed that you tired yourself out during these first few days, sorry.” She said, and laughed.

“I like lying down.” The girl next to me answered.

The Chinese put her hand forward. “I’m Liang Yuhan.”

The other girl looked at the hand for a few seconds before answering.

“Kay.” She said, and took her hand.

Liang formed a confused expression.

“Kay?”

She nodded her head at Liang. “Mm. I’m Kay.” She added.

Liang’s face lit up with understanding.

“Ah, sorry, haha. I misunderstood you. Nice to meet you, Kay!" Liang smiled brightly and turned towards a girl that sat next to her. “This is Alima. I met her during the gathering a few days ago.”

The girl, Alima, smiled shyly and waved her hand.

“H-hello.”

“Mm. Hi.” Kay answered casually.

After having introduced the two, Liang looked towards me. “What’s your name?” She had the same smile that she had worn when she asked Kay.

I studied her expression for a second. Was she scheming something, or was she just a cheerful person? I couldn’t tell. But what was there even to scheme about? We were only students. I had to remember that.

“Kim. Kim Hooper.” I answered. There wasn’t much point in provoking a person just because of my paranoia.

“I didn’t see any of you at class 1’s gathering a few days ago. How come none of you went?” Liang then asked.

“I was busy.”
“I didn’t feel like it.”

Both me and Kay answered almost simultaneously. Liang Yuhan then looked back and forth between us and started laughing again. She then looked behind us and went silent. As I turned around, I saw that our teacher, Mr. Basara, had entered the classroom and walked over to the center of a large board that covered the wall at the front of the classroom.  Most of the students had already stopped talking.

"We can talk more later." I heard Liang whisper from behind. I glanced over at Kay, who had a blank face as she paid attention to the teacher.

“Morning, class 1.” Mr. Basara started speaking, and the last of the conversing in the classroom died off.

“I hope you’ve all been well these past few days and have had enough time to get used to some of the different training facilities here at the academy. I think I’ve mentioned it already, but you’ll be using them quite a lot during these coming years.”

He tapped on his watch, and a hologram showed up above his wrist.

"This here is today's schedule. Every day there will be at least one theory class and two practical classes, except during the weekends where you have leave. For those of you that don’t remember, that’s every other weekend.” He pointed towards the hologram and continued. “Today, you’re first class will be Ethereal Beast Analysis up until lunch, followed by Basic Combat Techniques and Survival Class. Luckily for you guys Survival Class is mostly theory at first during the year, so you’ll be able to take it easy after the Combat Technique Basics class. Trust me; you’ll be thankful for that this afternoon.” He said with a dangerous smile.

 


 

And he was telling the truth. The Ethereal Beast Analysis class during the morning had been about the different kinds of monsters that existed, their potential weak points, habits, and general biology. I was already familiar with many of the monsters that the textbook mentioned, so I don’t think I’ll have any problems with that subject in the future.

But the Basic Combat Technique, or BCT class as the teacher referred to it, was another matter. We started warming up by running a few laps around the track. Since there existed various types of heroes, and not all of them focus on the same things, everyone wasn’t expected to run the same amount. I was jubilant when I first heard this. It was also a pleasant surprise when I realized that there were a few other students in my class who weren't super athletic. That is when you compare them to other superhumans, at least.

As soon as we started warming up, the majority of the class began running at a speed that was more than double mine without any troubles. But some were only about 40% faster or so. That Alima girl was one of them. I had to try a lot harder than the rest, but I managed to keep up with those students decently. However, that did mean that I was more exhausted than the rest during the actual lesson. The lesson itself lasted two hours and mostly consisted of the instructor demonstrating different grips and techniques, which we then got to try out on dolls. The instructor, a Korean woman, called Oh Sung-Suk, said that we’d stick to dolls the first couple of weeks before switching to sparring partners.

Even though today's lesson was only sparring with a doll, it was still ridiculously exhausting. You had to keep up a decent rate throughout the lesson, and if you ever slacked off, the instructor would be on you and yelling at you in less than a second. At the end of the lesson, I was lying down on the ground, barely able to move my arms. Thankfully one of the effects of training in a mana-dense environment was also a quicker recovery rate, so I'd still be able to get in a bit of practice during the evening.

After Basic Combat Techniques, we had Survival Class, which was exactly what it sounded like. Because dungeons and towers could differ a lot in how they looked on the inside, during the course, we’d learn how to survive in different dangerous environments and the correct measures to take whilst in of these instances. This, of course, also involved basic medical care and things like that.

For the record, an instance is what the inside of a dungeon or tower was often called.

I think my experience will be of great help during the Survival Class, especially so during the practical parts. But there was still a lot I had to learn, so I made sure to pay attention during the lesson and take lots of notes.

When the lesson concluded, and just as I was about to head back to my dorm, I saw Liang Yuhan approaching Kay and trying to start up a conversation. It seemed like she was interested in Kay because I’d seen her do that a few times during the day. Kay didn’t seem to care much, though, as she just casually nodded now and then when Liang talked.

When Liang saw me looking at them, she waved towards me cheerfully. I waved back uncertainly. When she saw that, she grabbed Kay’s hand and walked over to me. Kay seemed to have given up pretty quickly and just let Liang pull her along.

“Hey!” Liang yelled as she closed in on me. “Are you smart?”

I gave her a confused look. “What?”

She stopped in front of me and let go of Kay’s hand. “I’m wondering if you’re smart. Like, good at studying and things like that.” She was smiling brightly as she asked that.

“Oh. I haven’t had to study for a while, so I’m not sure. I guess I’m decent?” I usually didn’t pay much attention to school back in the day, but when I tried, it usually went well.

“You haven’t had to study?” She raised her eyebrows questioningly, before waving her hand around. “Well, never mind. But you see, I’ve never been that good at studying. I’ve always preferred just to hit a problem until it goes away. And apparently, Kay here doesn’t like studying either.” She gestured towards Kay, who was observing me like she was trying to remember who I was. “The problem is that my parents have been kinda nagging me lately about how I have to do better when it comes to studying. So I’ve been asking around, trying to find someone that’s decently smart to help me out now and then. And since Kay also doesn’t like studying, I thought that she could join too! It’ll be like a study group! So, what do you say?” She clasped her hands together and looked at me with begging eyes.

I raised my eyebrows. “What about that Alima girl? She might be good at studying.”

Liang sighed. “No, I already asked her. She’s not good at it either. And she’s a bit too shy to want to join a study group.” She looked at me, and the tips of her mouth turned upwards into another smile. “But if you really want to, I can probably convince her to join.”

“No, thank you. That’s none of my concern.” I shut her down immediately.

“Okay then, I won’t. But what about the study group? Will you do it? I’m planning to ask a few more people to join, too, and if you join, we can probably help you out with other things in the future. I can even spar with you whenever you want!” She announced hopefully.

I observed her for a few seconds before glancing at Kay. It still looked like she was trying to remember my name. Was I that forgettable? Or was that just because of her nonchalant attitude?

I turned back towards Liang and thought about her request. Was there any point in accepting it? I'd decided earlier that I'd be fine without making any friends here, and I still thought that. But maybe it wouldn't hurt to get closer to a few people?

I let out a tired breath and turned around. “I’ll think about it. How’s that?” I said as I started moving towards my dorm.

“That’s good enough for me. See you later then, Kim!” Liang’s voice sounded out from behind me.

“Kim… That’s what his name was…” I heard someone mumble directly after that.

I clenched my fists. For some reason, I got the urge to shoot arrows into stuff now.

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